Let’s Get Real
just a little something
to begin your week.
I really like to appear like I have my life and my faith put together. However, over the course of the last several years God has continued to chip away at this stronghold by teaching me the value of authenticity.
As I’ve written before, my desire for this blog is to be real and share what God is teaching me in a genuine way. Not in an I-have-figured-it-out-way but in a here’s-what-I’m-learning-way. There are times after I publish a blog entry that felt extra-exposing, I lay awake at night and wonder how it will be perceived. And then God reminds me of the truth that it only matters what He thinks and He is pleased when I stop hiding behind facades and am real with Him, myself and others. My prayer is that when you read my writing you feel the invitation to be your real self too.
I say all of this because I had many realizations during these very challenging last couple of weeks. I felt like my circumstances shone a flashlight on my faith and illuminated the areas that God continues to refine in me. One major lesson He is teaching me is how to authentically walk through confusing, difficult circumstances. I would rather not learn this lesson or have as much practice with it, but I guess that’s not the point. The point is more: When life takes an unexpected turn, do I still believe God is who He says He is in His Word? Even though the answer to my question always has been yes, do my reactions to my circumstances reflect that belief?
The eye-opening, faith-growing chain of events started two weeks ago after my nine-month check-up. I had an encouraging appointment with my oncologist and was told everything looked good. I assumed the good report included reports on my blood which had been drawn earlier in the day. However, not until a week later did I hear that one of my blood levels came back “slightly elevated.” Apparently it had just come to their attention.
When I studied the results, sheer panic filled my body. Seeing anything other than “normal range” was alarming and frightening (especially after hearing all was good a week before). Later that day after many excruciating hours of waiting, I finally talked with the nurse. She told me that this elevated hormone level could mean nothing except related to my hormone cycle. But then she also said, “If the number continues to rise, this will give us reason for concern because it could indicate cancer growth.” Gulp. Sob. After crying through the entire conversation, she appeased me by telling me that I could come back into the office in a week and recheck the level. But a week felt like an eternity away.
During the ensuing week, I vacillated between all levels of belief and doubt. There were moments when I would read a particular passage in the Bible and feel complete confidence in all that God was doing. But there were other moments—and probably more than the believing moments if I am honest—that I felt afraid and unsure that I could take God at His word.
Sure, I knew God was worthy of my trust. He has proved Himself over and over to me throughout my 30 years, and particularly in the past year. But there were still moments I struggled with belief. God, You’re sure You’re fully in control of this one, right? You promise to work things for my good, right? This isn’t a surprise, right?
One day in the middle of the waiting I decided to get out of the house and go for a walk. It was mild in temperature and I needed fresh air and a good talk with God. As I started to walk, my feelings spewed out. I admitted to God that I was confused and a bit angry with this frightening, pending test result. I didn’t understand His ways and I let Him know. Oh, how grateful I am that He is so gracious to love me when I act like a temper-tantruming two-year-old.
This reminds me of the quote from one of my favorite books, The Velveteen Woman, “Real is something we become gradually, as we face life vulnerably returning to God over and over and finding ourselves loved, even when life hurts, when it doesn’t make sense, when we’re angry or afraid” (20).
About half way through the walk, I realized I had been talking the entire time and hadn’t given God an opportunity to speak to me. “I want to hear you, God. Do you have anything You want to say?” I asked.
As I quieted myself, I heard God say to my heart, “Trust Me.” There are days I sure wish that command came with a formula, but I am learning that the beauty lies in allowing God to draw me to Himself through my circumstances and teach me more about Him. And as a result, I learn to trust and know Him more. As I continued my walk, God brought to mind the ways He has reassured me and spoken to me throughout my cancer journey. I felt God lead me to trust Him with the specific ways He had spoken to me in the past year and continue to claim His promises. Even when I didn’t know how the circumstances would turn out.
In her book, On a Positive Note, CeCe Winans articulated much of what God was teaching me: “Faith is about how you live your life in the meantime, how you make decisions when you don’t know for sure what’s next. What you do with yourself between the last time you heard from God and the next time you hear from God is the ongoing challenge of a life of faith” (207).
The day finally came to get my blood redrawn. I was told that I would hear the results within hours so I carried my phone around as if it was glued to my hand. Hour after hour the phone did not ring and unfortunately, willing it ring did no good either.
I tried to lay down for a nap to pass the time but I couldn’t quiet my mind. I decided to take up a friend’s offer to grab coffee. Although I would have never admitted this, I secretly preferred to be by myself because I had no intelligent words to verbalize my confusing emotions surrounding my frightening circumstances. But thankfully God provided the opportunity to sit across from my gracious friend and authentically share where I was at. Though we didn’t solve the day’s problems and the phone still didn’t ring, I left feeling encouraged, validated, and reminded of truth.
An entire day passed before I heard anything about my blood work. Late the next day when I finally was able to speak to the nurse, she informed me that she wouldn’t know any results until the following Monday. Five more days of waiting. Are you serious? I thought. Sigh. Sob.
That night, I tossed and turned while my husband slept soundly next to me. In one of my previous posts, I wrote about the truth God has been teaching me about keeping a steadfast mind, and as I lay in bed, I tried my best to recall His promises in His Word. Yet my heart was having a difficult time being still. When I let my thoughts go, they traveled far down the worst-case scenario road. I had to constantly reign them back in, reminding myself of the truth that God was in control and would make all things work together for my good. Even if in those moments my head was far more convinced than my heart.
Morning finally came and Jared and I were up before the sun so that he could attend a men’s Bible Study at church. As I dropped Jared off, I said, “I know God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, but I am feeling very close to my breaking point.” He gave me a reassuring kiss and promised He would be praying for me.
Before I put the car in drive, I looked down at my phone only to notice a new email had popped up on the screen. To my surprise, the email was from the nurse with the subject line “Yeah!!!!” including the lowered blood level result. I stared in disbelief, not knowing if I should laugh or cry. If I ever needed to be reassured that God would not push me one more minute beyond what I could handle, it was right then. He was so gracious to give me just what I needed at the exact moment I needed it.
Four days after receiving the positive news, I am still processing all that has transpired over the last two weeks. I would love to tie up this post with a beautiful bow but I am learning that much of life doesn’t work that way. Or at least authentically-lived life doesn’t work that way. Instead, I am trying to keep my eyes open to the ways God is growing me and my faith even when the circumstances veer off the path of what I envision.
Even though the past two weeks felt more than unbearable at times, I can honestly say that my view of God is deeper and the intimacy in our relationship is stronger. And my desire to be real is greater than my desire to appear like I have life figured out.
“Being real means embracing the gift of self-acceptance,
instead of pretending to be perfect.
Just BEING—shabby spots and all.
As we become more relaxed with our faults,
all the energy we once put into looking strong,
defending our reputation, and being ‘together’
is freed up for authentic living” (The Velveteen Woman 154).
“Trust in God at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to Him,
for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:8